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Sheriff’s department will attend parole hearings in the absence of prosecutors

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials will attend parole hearings in the absence of prosecutors who are not permitted to appear under the administration of District Attorney George Gascón, according to Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

In a letter to Gascón on Wednesday, the sheriff said that while assistant prosecutors will no longer be allowed to attend hearings, “LASD will do everything possible to give victims a voice at the table to address their concerns” despite “the lack of funding and resources from my ministry.

Villanueva said department officials will attend virtual parole hearings or have investigators travel for in-person hearings, and will continue to write letters in opposition to administration policy.

According to Gascón’s special counsel, Alex Bastian, victim advocates in the district attorney’s office are in a better position to support victims during parole hearings than sheriff’s officials or prosecutors.

“When heartbreaking crimes occur, the victims and their families are forever changed. This is why District Attorney Gascón has directed victim advocates in our office, who are trained to provide trauma-informed care, to support victims during parole hearings, he said via email Wednesday. “They are available to attend any hearing where the victims want them to be present. Sheriff’s deputies, like prosecutors, do not have all the relevant facts and assessments. The parole board does – and its sole purpose is to objectively determine whether someone is fit for release.

The newly elected district attorney issued a series of special directives on December 7, including Special Directive 20-14which orders that prosecutors “shall not attend parole hearings” and will support granting parole to those who have served their mandatory minimum sentence.

The administration says it “will continue to fulfill its obligation to inform and counsel victims under California law, and is committed to a process of healing and restorative justice for all victims,” ​​according to the directive. .

Villanueva said reform is needed but disagrees with Gascón’s decision to bar prosecutors from parole hearings and instead called the policy a “step backwards”, during a briefing live Wednesday.

“We believe it is important to give a voice to the voiceless and to maintain our commitment in good standing to those who have been victims of violent crime,” he said in the letter. “We both agree that reforms need to be made to increase the capacity to help members of our communities who suffer from mental illness and addiction. That being said, I don’t understand why your office prevents prosecutors from attending parole hearings.

Villanueva’s letter follows Tuesday’s audience between the county prosecutors’ union against Gascón and a Jan. 21 letter County Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent to the parole hearing committee urging committee members to deny a request for parole in the case of Ruben Beltran, who was convicted of child molestation and has been serving a 15-year to life sentence since 2004.